Gods and Monsters
by Greer Shlivandas (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Excerpt from 'Simple Al Bhed Folklore' lecture series by Khesset Rin:
"Famlusa. Welcome. This sphere you are holding may be the first important work in Al Bhed to ever be translated into the language of Yevon; or at least I know of no others. I have been studying your customs for some time now, and have come to the conclusion that there is still far too little discourse between our peoples, even among scholars or travelers like myself. Perhaps it would be better to leave those projects to more learned men, as I find myself to be a poor translator and an even poorer storyteller- but I know that I have a means of reaching far more of the Yevonite world than those scholars ever will. We Al Bhed have a saying: "Ghufmatha ec dra gaocduha uv bnucbanedo; bnucbanedo dra tuunfya du bayla." 'Knowledge is the keystone of prosperity; prosperity the doorway to peace.' It is much harder to despise a race of men, once they are no longer strangers."
"I think it best to start simply with a story commonly told to our children. Surely you have stories like this of your own, difficult ideas made easier for minds too young to know any more complex truth. I believe 'myth' would be the word to use. This is the story of Muafa and the Ihvunsat."
"Four hundred years ago, after our Home had already been lost to Sin, there was a summoner among us by the name of Muafa. Yes, I understand your surprise- it is not common, then or now, for a summoner to be an Al Bhed. But we are not such a godless people as you might think- it is merely that we are not Yevonites. To go on- Muafa was a summoner, but never a very good one. Not for lack of skill, but more because there were few among my people who were willing to become fayth for his sake. We prefer to lay trust in our hands and minds, rather than the... 'spectacle'...of magic. Also, is it not better for all people to do their own small part in fighting Sin than to sacrifice one for the sake of all others? Pardon me. This is not the time to debate philosophy. Yes... you must also remember that Sin was not our only enemy in those days. Without Home, we were forced to wander as we do now, but the cities of Yevon and the Guado turned us away at every gate. Our fathers and grandfathers had killed each other in what the Yevonites considered a holy war a mere generation before, far too soon for those crimes to be forgotten. It was a dangerous time for us, one where we needed the protection of a summoner, but without aeons to call, Muafa had to find some other way of defending his people. "
" Like many Al Bhed, Muafa had been taught how to build and use machina, and perhaps you will not be surprised to learn that this is where he sought for an answer. He designed and build a number of man-sized armed machina that could move without the aid of a pilot, creations to travel with us on our journeys and protect us from harm. But these machina were only so many bits of metal, no matter how useful. Without brains, without souls, they could only be servants- not proper guardians. Would it surprise you now to know that Muafa did then what any of *your* summoners would do? He prayed for seven days and nights for a vision or dream, for some kind of an answer."
"We all know how fayth are created; how the living body must first be imprisoned under glass or rock for the spirit to walk free. But metal can hold a fayth as well as stone can. On the seventh night, Muafa dreamt of digging in a graveyard, and unearthing one of his machina instead. He dreamt of writing out all the pain of our people, and feeding it into the silent mouth of a fayth who hovered over his creation. He dreamt of calling an aeon to him, a great giant of metal wrapped in dust, with dnidr- 'truth'- written over its heart. The aeon spoke its name: Ihvunsat. In our tongue meaning, 'unformed'. And Muafa woke then, knowing what he must do to save the Al Bhed. "
"I am sure you can guess what Muafa did then, how fayth were placed within the shells of the machina, and how they were transformed by the spirits of the dead. One thing is uncertain, though- no one seems to know exactly who it was that gave up their lives to aid the summoner. Most versions of this tale insist it was Muafa's own family- his sons Eddig and Jikku, their wives, and their children. But others say that instead it was a band of Yevonite soldiers sent to carry Muafa's head to the high priests in Bevelle. The one and only Yevonite version of this story I have ever encountered tells of a band of innocent travelers making a pilgrimage to the Farplane, who vanished and then returned with their souls caged in machina to attack their own people. Politics carries the day, as always. But perhaps if those bloodier versions are true, it might explain what happened later."
"It was said that only a dwytteg, a truly righteous man, could have made such creatures. By night they came to Muafa's home, and he gave them instructions. Like children, he taught them to read, to speak, and to fight, always reminding them that their one purpose as to defend the Al Bhed. And it would only be when our people were finally safe and our Home rebuilt, that they would finally be able to rest. As our people journeyed safely across the lands of Yevon, for a time Muafa even became Chief Elder of the Al Bhed. My own many-times-great grandfather is said to have had an Ihvunsat himself, to guard his wagon of goods as he peddled dyes and our fine leathers from Besaid to Macalania. But like all machina, the Ihvunsat were only tools, and how a tool is used depends on the owner. Rumors began to spread of the more embittered Al Bhed sending their Ihvunsat out to attack Yevonites; and of Al Bhed stealing Yevonite children for use as fayth, as they tried to create Ihvunsat of their own. It was during this time that the now-famous Bevelle temple fire occurred, only hours after an Al Bhed weather scouting party had left the city. Whether the onlookers actually saw machina escaping from the fire is unknown, although I am given to understand that Yevonite historians consider it irrefutable. What happened after is easy to guess- Maester Rudul demanded of Muafa that he destroy all the Ihvunsat machina, and quickly raised a small army of warrior monks to ride to the outskirts of Luca, where Muafa kept his home. Muafa in turn called all of his Ihvunsat to him. And where so many men and machina were gathering, Sin was called to visit as well."
" Muafa spoke to his creations: 'I am a summoner- and you, my children, are all my guardians. But the time has come for one of you to become my aeon, for I have no hope of defeating Sin any other way.' There was silence among the gathered machina, until one spoke out:"
" 'The one who becomes your aeon, afterwards he will die?'"
" 'Yes', Muafa said to the Ihvunsat. 'He or she will die protecting the Al Bhed. It is what you were created to do. It is your only reason for existing.' "
" The Ihvunsat were silent again. And then the one who had spoken before asked, 'Father, you created me. But do you even know my name?' "
"And Muafa looked out among the gathered machina until he found his boldest son and told him, 'You are Ymec.' "
" At which Ymec said, 'Then I will be your aeon.'"
"Here is where the history loses shape. No Yevonite story or text has an aeon named Ymec, or mentions Muafa the High Summoner. But this is what we know, we Al Bhed, which your priests and monks will never tell you. So listen:"
" Sin was gone for twenty years after its battle with Ymec. No one dared to call it a Calm, but what other name is there to give it? But what the priesthood of Yevon remembered instead was that after his defeat of Sin, Ymec turned his power on Maester Rudul and his monks, destroying every single one. When the aeon had gone, Muafa was captured, and tortured, and hung to die in a wooden cage from the Luca city gates. Laws were passed banning any Al Bhed from traveling within Yevonite cities, and any who were already living there were rounded up and killed. In the end, your priests named it the Great Al Bhed Uprising, and breathed a little more easily each night, knowing themselves to be safe from both Sin... and heathens. The remaining Ihvunsat scattered, hiding in fear in the wastelands, as the fayth within them began to turn to fiends one by one."
"Call us all liars, if you like. Say we twist history to make heroes of ourselves, to erase the murder of a Maester and several hundred warrior monks with a High Summoner who never existed, and a aeon called from forbidden machina. Say whatever you like. But know this: aeons do not die, and will not go on to the Farplane until Sin is gone forever. And while Muafa's sad bones may have been dust for a very long time, Ymec is still with us, hidden deeply away. And he is still waiting, waiting for the Al Bhed to need him again. It was why the Ihvunsat were created, after all."
"This is a story we tell to our children, to offer comfort. I hope you will not tell it to yours just to make them behave: 'Go to sleep, or Ymec will get you.' But if we do not share our stories, Sin may get us all. Kuut raimdr, yht kuut hekrd. Good health, and good night."
Author's notes: Obviously, this is a mixture of various Golem legends, given an FF X twist. Bibliographic credit goes mostly to David Wisenewski's Golem, and Nathan Ausubel's A Treasury of Jewish Folklore. 'Muafa' is an Al Bhed rendering of Loew or Loewe, the name of the rabbi most commonly cited as the creator of the Golem of Prague. 'Ihvunsat' is Al Bhed for 'unformed', a literal translation of the Hebrew meaning of 'golem'. Maester Rudul's name was taken from Emperor Rudolf II, the man supposedly ruling Prague during the time of the Golem . 'Dwytteg' is the Al Bhed rendering of tzaddik, a Hebrew word for a holy man; and 'Ymec' translates from Al Bhed to 'Alis', an hommage to the mech-summon known by various spellings of Alexander that appeared in FFs VI, VII, and IX. Gods and Monsters is the name of a a very good movie about the dying days of the director of Frankenstein.
This story began as an attempt to explain all those machina random encounters- why are they running around and behaving like fiends, attacking Al Bhed and non-Al Bhed alike? It solidified as I began to notice similarities between the Al Bhed situation and the medieval Jewish situation: a loss of their ancestral homeland that forces them to wander; a tendency to get blamed for the presence of sin in the world; and a religious structure similar to the dominant one but despised by it- most notably because one has a messianic figure (Yevon) and the other doesn't. Also, the Al Bhed are looked down upon because they are willing to perform certain tasks which are taboo for Yevonites, such as working with machina- similar to the old Jewish industries of moneylending and shopkeeping which were considered unclean for Christians.
My apologies to anyone who finds this sacrilegious; it was not intended as such.